But first, a geography lesson:
The fictional island of Corto Maltese can be found off the coast of South America in most DC Earths. What makes the island country so interesting is that, aside from Gotham City and Metropolis, it appears to be the fictional place in the DC Universe most represented across all medium, more than Coast City, Keystone or Central City, Paradise Island, or others.
More interesting, Corto Maltese is never a place of great note or importance, but more of a backdrop or narrative springboard. The country first appears in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns as a political hotspot, then in 1989’s Batman via Time Magazine photographs of the “Corto Maltese Revolution”, photographed by Viki Vale. A Lexcorp facility in Corto Maltese is a target of the newly formed Justice League in the 2007 Smallville episode, “Justice.” Corto Maltese was confirmed as a canon location in the DCU in 2010’s Time Masters #4.
And so we add [Arrow](series:720988) to the long list of DC media to feature Corto Maltese. And very appropriate that the episode be a spotlight on Thea Queen.
Thea is easily the show’s most underused character, used more to serve narrative purpose than anything else. She’s been used as a device to further the stories of Oliver, Roy, Moira, Malcolm and others while rarely, if ever, having her own explored. This is most disappointing for Willa Holland, who has done a fantastic job of making Thea feel like more than a plot device over the last two seasons. She brings a quiet strength, vulnerability, and believability to what has been until this point a thankless role. It is very nice, then, to see her and the character finally rewarded with this episode.
In this episode, Thea joins Felicity and Laurel in the growing list of Arrow characters breaking free of the boundaries of their archetypical roles. It’s great to see how Thea has grown and changed in this episode, for good and for bad. She is stronger physically and mentally, more confident, more resourceful, but also more jaded and suspicious. She reminds me of Moira in her shadiest moments.
Side note: In Corto Maltese, Thea’s uses the alias “Mia”, another throwback to Mia Dearden, the second Speedy. How long until we see Thea gets some archery lessons?
If Thea is Arrow’s most underused character, then John Barrowman is certainly its most underused actor. It’s great to see Malcolm featured so predominantly in an episode, and Barrowman is in usual fine form. His Pei Mei/Tyler Durden training of Thea is simultaneously charming and creepy, a balance Barrowman has perfected with Malcolm. The flashbacks were cool but felt unnecessary, giving us no further information than we gathered singularly from last week’s cliffhanger.
Back in Starling, we see Laurel taking the first real steps in the heroes’ journey we all know she’s destined for. It’s great to see Ted “The Wildcat” Grant (J.R. Ramirez) adapted to Arrow. Grant a great DC character and even greater part of Dinah Lance’s backstory. But Laurel’s best scene this week is her aborted confession at her AA meeting. Vigilantism as an addiction is something that Arrow continues to subtly flirt with, and it ties in nicely to Laurel’s past as an addict. It’s nice to see Laurel continue to struggle with addiction this season. Typically addictions in TV shows are forgotten and never referenced again once the character gets clean, and it’s refreshing to see a show take a more realistic and honest route.
On the action front, there’s a pretty random subplot involving Diggle going after a missing ARGUS agent who ends up being a double agent, with hijinks ensuing. This subplot mainly exists to meet the arrow shooting and explosion quota. As action sequences go, the fight with the mercenaries it’s pretty entertaining, per usual. The hotel-made arrows were really cool, showing the resourcefulness of Oliver and harkening back to the island days. His Quigley Down Under moment with the handgun also gets a deserved chuckle. The subplot does kick duplicitous, not-quite-good vibe of ARGUS up another notch, a plot I expect will continue to grow over the course of the season.
The episode ends with the reappearance of Nyssa Al Ghul. It looks like, starting next episode, we’re going to get a lot more League of Assassins goodness, and hopefully start building toward our first glimpse at The Demon’s Head himself. If you’re like me, Arrowheads, you can’t wait.
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